Waterson, Berlin & Snyder, Inc.

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Waterson, Berlin & Snyder, Inc. was, during the 1920s, one of the largest music publishers of popular sheet music in the country. The firm was based in New York City. What began as the Ted Snyder Company in 1908 evolved into Waterson, Berlin & Snyder, Inc., in 1918 when its founder, Ted Snyder (1881–1965), took on two partners – Henry Waterson (1873–1933) and Irving Berlin (1888–1989).[1] Berlin had been Ted Snyder's staff lyricist since 1909.[2]

Tin Pan Alley publisher[edit]

"Tin Pan Alley" was a specific area in New York City on 28th Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue that, at the turn of the 20th century, was the epicenter of the popular music publishing industry. Many publishing firms were not actually located on that particular block, but, "Tin Pan Alley" was also as much a reference to a music industry district as it was to a music genre (popular music, ragtime – the precursor to what became jazz). Waterson, Berlin & Snyder was a Tin Pan Alley firm.

Former addresses of Waterson, Berlin & Snyder, Inc.

  • 47th Street & Broadway, Strand Theatre Building, New York City

Mills Music, Inc.[edit]

Snyder left the company in 1927 to move to California. Waterson, Berlin & Snyder went bankrupt in 1929; and, as part of the bankruptcy sale, Jack Mills (of Mills Music, Inc.) purchased its catalog for $5000.[3]

Pioneer publisher of black composers[edit]

It was rare for black composers to be involved in Tin Pan Alley, which, for Mills Music, represented a business opportunity. Through subsidiaries (such as Milsons, Exclusive, Grand, and American Academy of Music), Mills marketed Duke Ellington to different audiences. This strategy helped elevate Mills as major player in the music publishing business.[4]

The Mills Music Trust[edit]

Jack (1892–1979) and Irving Mills (Jack's brother and business partner) sold Mills Music February 25, 1965, to Utilities and Industries Corporation (a utility company based in New York), who, in turn restructured Mills Music as The Mills Music Trust. At the time of the sale, the top 10 earning compositions were:

  1. Stardust
  2. When You're Smiling
  3. The Syncopated Clock
  4. Moonglow
  5. Sleigh Ride
  6. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
  7. Caravan
  8. Blue Tango
  9. Mood Indigo
  10. Who's Sorry Now?

For the year ending 1963, 114 titles brought in 77 percent of the royalty income for five years. The total number of compositions, at the time of sale, were estimated to be in excess of 25,000, of which, 1,500 were still producing royalties. In 1964, Mills had royalties of 1,331,000 dollars. The company encompassed 20 music publishing subsidiaries (some of which were acquired for $300), as well as publishing concerns in Britain, Brazil, Canada, France, then West Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Spain.[5]

Structure of the trust[edit]

The Mills Music Trust traded in units OTC (over-the-counter) under the symbol MMTRS. The trust received payments from EMI Records based on a complex formula that changed in 2010, when the trust passed almost all of the funds to unit holders.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ted Snyder Dies; Wrote Hit Songs, The New York Times, July 21, 1965
  2. ^ Irving Berlin, Billboard Magazine, col 1, pg. 76, Oct. 7, 1950
  3. ^ David A. Jasen, Tin Pan Alley: An Encyclopedia of the Golden Age of American Song, New edition (June 25, 2003)
  4. ^ Harvey G. Cohen, Duke Ellington's America, University of Chicago Press (2010)
  5. ^ George M. Rood (1935-2000), A Share of "Star Dust" on Wall Street – Sale of Mills Music Makes it Possible to Invest in Songs, The New York Times, February 26, 1965